S. Judge

Old Dominion University (UNITED STATES)
There is a growing trend for developing innovative postsecondary education (PSE) options for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and the promising practices for transition services as required by the IDEA (2004) have increased the opportunity for students with ID to participate in PSE options. In a recent review of the literature regarding the PSE experiences of students with ID, Thoma et al. (2011) found that there is a paucity of information about the PSE experiences of students with ID and their outcomes. It is crucial that the disability community closely examine ways to support better PSE outcomes for individuals with ID. Given that PSE options for individuals with ID are still new and relatively rare, efforts in other countries serve as resources for additional evidence-based practices from which to learn.

The Prodis Foundation, a Spanish non-profit institution whose purpose is to maximize social and employment inclusion of individuals with ID, and the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), a large public university, created UAM-Prodis Patronage Chair, a PSE option for individuals with ID between the ages of 18-30 years. This paper will describe this innovative program, outcomes from various stakeholders including students with ID enrolled at UAM during its first four years of implementation, implications, and portability of the program.

The overarching purpose of UAM-Prodis Patronage Chair is the provision of PSE for young people with ID in the university environment and the promotion of supported employment in an inclusive work environment. The UAM was the first Spanish university to provide students with ID a certificate program which qualifies them for inclusion in the workforce. The training takes place over two academic years and is conducted through the College of Professional Training for Teaching and Education at UAM. During the first year, students receive more training in the classroom whereas during the second year a greater emphasis is on practical application. The practicums are one of the fundamental aspects of training during the second year. The theoretical framework of the practicums is based on the methodology of supported employment that is considered one of the strategies more efficient for the successful inclusion of people with disabilities in regular employment.

The outcomes described are based on the first four cohorts consisting of 60 students with a 100% completion rate and 92% are currently employed. Of those employed, 74% have permanent contracts, which is equal to workers who are not disabled, The graduates work in a wide range of business sectors with 94% of the graduates working part-time and 6% working full-time. High levels of satisfaction were obtained from the university professors, students, and administration, employers, youth with ID and their families. In all companies, and mainly in the private sector, the program has achieved very high rates of satisfaction without sacrificing the quality and efficiency goals. The program has received high levels of employability and provides quality assurance to companies that employ people with ID by the professionalism of its labor mediators trained at UAM. These outcomes indicate that the UAM-Prodis Patronage Chair program has become one of the main strategies to achieve independent living and community integration of people with ID through a postsecondary education option.